Microsoft warns of lapsing Windows support

Vista RTM's support expires in two months, XP SP2's and Windows 2000's in five

Just days after Microsoft warned Windows 7 users of an impending shutdown of the free release candidate, the company reminded customers running Windows 2000, XP and Vista of approaching support deadlines for those editions.

The closest cutoff is April 13, when Microsoft will drop support for Vista RTM (release to manufacturing), the term used for the build the company launched at retail in January 2007. After that date -- it's also April's Patch Tuesday -- Microsoft will not provide security updates for Vista RTM, said Jerry Bryant, a senior manager with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC).

Instead, users should upgrade to Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), or preferably, Vista SP2, Bryant said. Microsoft shipped SP1 and SP2 in March 2008 and May 2009, respectively.

Microsoft's policy is to support a Windows RTM build for at least 24 months after the release of a first service pack, and to support any service pack for the same length of time when it's superseded by a follow-up.

Both Windows 2000 and Windows XP face support deadlines of July 13, 2010, Bryant added in an entry last week to the MSRC blog.

Microsoft will retire Windows 2000 from all support in July, ending all security patches for the operating system that celebrates its 10-year anniversary this month.

Windows XP SP2, the popular 2004 update that beefed up the security of the under-attack OS, will also exit support July 13. To continue receiving bug patches, users must upgrade to XP SP3, the May 2008 update. Bryant claimed that "many" customers are still using XP SP2, and urged them to upgrade to either SP3 or Windows 7.

According to Web metrics company NetApplications.com, Windows XP powered 66% of the machines that were online last month, while Vista ran 17.5% and Windows 2000 a puny 0.6%.

Last week, Microsoft reminded users of Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) that beginning on Feb. 15, the free preview will warn of a March 1 deadline. On March 1, the operating system will start to shut down automatically every two hours.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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